Health isn’t an appearance. It’s not something we can always see from the inside. What might be considered a ‘healthy’ diet or someone who looks “healthy” might in fact not be healthy from their diet, their digestion, to their mental health. All food plans can’t be for everyone. Anxiety is very common in our society with the social structure telling us always to be better, faster, smarter etc. Anxiety can make you have a lack of sleep, lack of appetite, and restlessness. People dealing with anxiety often feel unsettled and have poor digestion and poor appetite.
Ayurveda teaches us that food and nutrition can help someone dealing with anxiety. Ayurveda believes there are certain foods that will help reduce anxiety and those that will aggravate an anxious state. Ayurveda also takes into account the fact that when anxiety is very intense, appetite can fade, digestion can become difficult and that even swallowing may be uncomfortable with an anxious, dry mouth. For others, eating may be a way of masking anxiety. When you’re feeling anxious, it can be difficult making even simple decisions, including what to eat. Ayurveda makes it easy to work out a diet that’s going to support your recovery rather than slow it down.
The main culprits are the foods that will unsettle your nervous system and so of course will tend to make you feel more agitated and therefore more anxious. Here are a few foods to avoid for anxiety:
- Other caffeine containing foods and drinks (i.e. soda, energy drinks, strong tea and very dark chocolate),
- Large amounts of sugary foods and drinks
- Spicy foods like chili peppers
- Highly processed foods especially with lots of ingredients listed on the packaging.
All of these stimulate the body and nervous system and this is of course the exact opposite of what you want. In the case of alcohol and sugar, you may experience an initial lessening of anxiety or feel a little ‘high’ for a while, but it will be followed by a drop, leaving you worse off than before.
Try to cut down on light, dry or cold foods and drinks. People with anxiety tend to already feel unsettled and ungrounded, experience a dry mouth and skin, and feel the cold. So, you want your food to counteract those qualities if possible with a diet that is warming, grounding, satisfying, easy to swallow and easy to digest. This will help you to work on your anxiety state from the inside out.
Ayurveda considers all pungent, bitter and astringent tasting foods to be the tastes that will aggravate an anxiety imbalance. Below are a few examples why:
- Bitter foods (e.g. uncooked leafy greens, grapefruit etc ) tend to be cooling, stimulating and unsatisfying rather than soothing;
- Astringent foods are those with a drying effect in the mouth such as pomegranate, many beans and even chocolate;
- Pungent foods (refers mainly to hot spices such as chilli) also tend to stimulate the nervous system.
Remember that Ayurveda is all about balance and the idea is not to completely eliminate all these foods. You will still need to include a little of them in your diet – simply be aware that, over time, they tend to have an unsettling effect on the nervous system and eat less of them than perhaps you normally would.
The key to living a healthy life is to eat with awareness and always maintain a balanced perspective regarding diet and lifestyle. We here at Santa Cruz Ayurveda hope these tips help support you during the winter months.